To Resurrect a Mockingbird (in a Really Long-Winded Way)

Last week, the folks over at Racialicious re-posted a piece by Macon D., the creator of the blog, Stuff White People Do.  The article, “Stuff White People Do: Warmly Embrace a Racist Novel,” addresses the 50th anniversary celebration of Harper Lee’s only novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, published in the summer of 1960.  Macon D. took issue with all the attention TKAM was receiving, and consequently wrote a polemic railing against the (praise of the) novel.

I refuse to go along with this week’s warm, feel-good celebrations of Harper Lee’s novel (published fifty years ago today), To Kill a Mockingbird. Simply put, I think that novel is racist, and so is its undying popularity. It’s also racist in a particularly insidious way, because the story and its characters instead seem to so many white people like the very model of good, heartwarming, white anti-racism.

Macon D. outlines several key issues he has with the novel: its reception, that the mockingbird symbolizes Negroes, Atticus Finch as the O.G. white savior, and the marginal presence of Negroes in the novel.  To put bluntly: I take issue with Macon D.’s issues.  Maybe this is also stuff black people do, because I embrace this novel, too.  Before I continue, however, I want to note that since the initial post takes up the novel, and not the Academy Award-winning film, which premiered in 1962, my response will exclusively center on the text and not the film.

Swim or die: The battle to save black kids from drowning

Swim or die: The battle to save black kids from drowning
Harriette Cole, The Grio, July 15, 2010

I’m one of the lucky ones. When I was 4-years-old my father had an in-ground pool built in the backyard of my Baltimore home. And then he immediately hired a swim teacher to come to our house every Saturday like clockwork to teach my sisters and me the ways of the water. Though he grew up in inner city Baltimore of meager means, my father (and my mother) had learned how to swim at young ages. And what was clear to them from the start was that in order to be safe–and have fun in the summer especially–you had to know how to swim.

If only this were so for most African-American families today! Instead, a recent study commissioned by USASwimming and conducted by the University of Memphis reveals a shocking truth. Not only do most black kids not know how to swim, the concept of “most” is not an exaggeration. Actually about 70 percent of black youth across America cannot swim.

Unfortunately, this lack of swimming skill is not translating into safe behavior in pools and oceans in this country. When the Fahrenheit is climbing and folks are looking for relief, the water is usually the most alluring (and cooling) destination they seek. (Read the full article)

In Solidarity w/Crunk Feminist Collective: I, too, know what it means to date Black Men as a Black Feminist

“Feminism tells us that the personal is political. Therefore, feminism is a useful frame for helping me to make sense of the gender politics that may be at play in my dating life. When a card-carrying feminist goes on a date, it is a feminist issue, maybe a micro-level one, but a feminist issue nonetheless. In my facetious blaming of feminism, I simply meant that the confidence which it instills in women concerning their intellect and the often radical politics it causes us to espouse, can very often throw a monkey wrench in one’s dating game.” —Crunktastic, July 15, 2010

Wow, for me this quote is “church” as my high school mentee would say. Meaning, this quote is the truth on the level of canonical truth.  I cannot count on my fingers, toes, and follicles of hair the number of black men I’ve dated who have placed me in what Crunktastic calls the “mind f*u$k” category or as I have come to refer to it as the mental masturbation category. Meaning, [in your best non-British intellectually laced Idris Alba’s voice] “I, black man, will date you, black feminist, for a set amount of time . . . give or take three months . . . slowly draining you, my sweet ebony Amazon, of your bookish, but devilishly witty comments . . . then I, black man, will slowly nibble at your “cute” feminist push backs about my male privilege then after that I will marry La’Keisha because she has relaxed hair, childbearing hips, believes in religious “submission” and will happily keep my house and cook my dinner.”

Okay, I know this is a caricature of the some of the men I’ve dated, but the truth remains the same as Crunktastic humorously and facetious writes that, “the confidence which [black feminism] . . . instills in women concerning their intellect and the often radical politics it causes us to espouse, can very often throw a monkey wrench in one’s dating game.” And, I would go even further and say that it throws hammers, nails, the kitchen sink, and, yes, even dry wall into the mix.

The Secret Lives of Others

We should all feel a little remorse for Mel Gibson. This is not in defense of his behavior nor am I excusing or condoning anything he did on the tape. I’m only suggesting we read between the lines and review just how the private lives of others become fodder for the masses. We have to ask ourselves where the line between personal and private should be drawn, if there is one even left.

The young generation raised on Facebook and MySpace and other social networks will have the benefit of connecting with communities across the globe, but they will also have the misfortune of their private lives being accessed by employers, scorned ex-lovers, and anyone else seeking access to your private information. I use many online sites in addition to visiting gossip sites and while it can be entertaining, I am often puzzled by how often information on individual’s medical conditions are available. Aren’t these things we should know nothing about?

My sympathy to Mel Gibson is in relation to his positioning as a public figure and whether or not he has a problem, the very availability of the tapes is still questionable. So is the release of court documents and 911 calls. In the age of information, there is almost an entitlement to the secrets of others. The more salacious or damning the information, the more removed we are from the idea of privacy. And while I know it isn’t technically illegal for any of this information to be out in the open, we should still think how we would feel if it happened to us and what it means for us to have this kind of access.

One In Five Default On Their Student Loans

One In Five Default On Their Student Loans
Julianne Hing, Colorlines, July 13, 2010

The Chronicle of Higher Ed took a look at student loan default rates, and they’re much worse than people had previously thought. A whopping 20 percent of the government student loans that began repayment in 1995 have been defaulted on.

Most colleges look only at a “cohort-default rate,” which measures only those who default on their loans within two years of their repayment. But the longterm figures paint a more accurate, and troubling picture. Fifteen years after repayment begins, 31 percent of government student loans made to community college students eventually go into default. And 40 percent of students who use their federal student loans at for-profit schools default on their loans.

If you break it down further, the numbers show that students of color are disproportionately saddled with student loans that they can’t get out of. Indeed, black students default on their student loans at four times the overall average default rate. (Read the full article)

Black Teen Girls Lead Peers In Quitting Smoking

Black Teen Girls Lead Peers In Quitting Smoking
Claudio E. Cabrera, NewsOne, July 13, 2010

A new study released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention highlights how teenage Black girls are leading the way in smoking cessation.

The study, which was published earlier this month, focuses on the overall decline in teen smoking since 1991. But since 2003, amongst different ethnic and racial groups of both genders, African-American teenage girls are the only group to see their usage decline.

According to the study, the percentage of students who said they currently smoke cigarettes has dropped 17 percent since 1997 (36.4 to 19.5). The percentage of students experimenting with cigarettes also dropped sharply from 70 percent to 46.3 percent in the last 20 years. While other groups have either increased or stayed at the same levels, young African-American teenage girls have been steadily declining usage since the year 2000. (Click here to read the study)